‘Why AC/DC Matters’ Author Anthony Bozza on the Importance of ‘Let There Be Rock’
When it was time for AC/DC to pick a writer for the DVD liner-notes of their newly reissued 1979 classic concert film ‘Let There Be Rock,’ they made a smart choice by picking Anthony Bozza, author of the recent book ‘Why AC/DC Matters,’ as well as successful autobiographies from Tommy Lee and Slash.
We talked to Bozza about the Australian powerhouse band’s lack of critical respect, the long-awaited DVD debut of ‘Let There Be Rock,’ the difference between their early and late eras, and some of his favorite AC/DC music:
What made you want to write about AC/DC?
I’ve wanted to do a book on AC/DC for years. They’ve always said, “Well, if we ever do it, we’ll think of you.” But it pretty much got to a place where I was like, for all we know, the ‘Black Ice’ tour might be their last. So, I just took a chance. This publisher, the woman who bought the Slash book from me, had the idea to do a bunch of books in a shorter, essay type of format on various bands. She asked, “Which one would you do?” I said AC/DC, and that was pretty much it.
The liner notes from ‘Let There Be Rock’ are a great read, as well.
Thanks, man! It sure was fun, I’ve been wanting to say that stuff for a long time. I used to be the kid at Rolling Stone who would always say, “Why aren’t you putting AC/DC in the ‘Greatest Guitar Players of All-Time’ issue?,” and all that stuff. They would say, “Would you just shut up with the AC/DC,” but I wouldn’t: “I know you’re older than me, but you’re wrong!” So, [with the liner notes and the book] I finally was completely given the chance to make the argument I’ve been wanting to make for a very long time.
One of the best parts of the ‘Let There Be Rock’ story is how the film’s producers got the job…
I did a little digging on that. I have total respect for people who do that; they pretty much convinced the band’s management that they knew what they were doing. I think that whatever reel they had was pretty tiny, and so they talked about all these other things they had done, in foreign markets, so they couldn’t be seen. I mean, really, they just BS’d their way into getting this gig. They knew very little about the band, I really like the innocence of that, and the way it turned out. They also didn’t seem to be very familiar with the concert movie milieu, which at the time was happening to some degree. So, I think it’s the perfect way to look at the band, especially at that moment, I mean — everything was working.
I know, we’re so lucky to have that footage of Bon Scott in his prime…
Yes, especially for someone like me, who was just 8 years old. My parents were pretty cool about letting me go to shows, but not that cool. I agree, it’s an incredible document, and I keep repeating that in the booklet, but it’s just true. I also really like the way they did the backstage stuff; I like the montage at the beginning where they’re showing the stage being built. Any tour I’ve ever been on, I’m always just blown away by how much work the crew does, and how quickly. Those are some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, too. That sped-up thing of the whole stage being built is really cool.
Do you think a lot of people don’t even realize Bon Scott was the singer in AC/DC?
Absolutely. I mean, every year, every time I’ve gone to see them, the fans are younger and younger. I don’t even think they know the difference. The early ’80s stuff, the first Brian Johnson stuff, had the big huge radio hits that everybody knows them for. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they didn’t even realize there was another singer. If you listen to early AC/DC, I think it’s obvious to hear that they have two very different styles of singing, but if you’re not paying a lot of attention, and since Mutt Lange did the production on [Bon’s last AC/DC album] ‘Highway to Hell’ and [Brian’s first] ‘Back in Black,’ maybe it sounds similar enough that you think it’s the same singer.
Right, plus Brian sings a lot of Bon-era songs on their live DVDs and in concert.
…And it’s such a different style. I love Brian Johnson, but I really, really love Bon Scott. It was a different band, a different era. He was such a showman, he was really just so great on stage. I’m glad ‘Let There Be Rock’ is out. My friend across the street, his older brother had it on VHS, and we’d watch it then, but I always wondered why it was never out on DVD. I had a VCR, and an old copy, and that was the only reason I kept that VCR, was to watch that, which got kinda pathetic after a while.
Why do you think critics never quite gave AC/DC their due?
Yeah, and really it just changed recently. One of the things that I wrote about in the book, on the eve of the ‘Black Ice’ tour, they were suddenly getting all of that stuff. Before, they were always begrudgingly accepted. The attitude was like, “Oh these guys, doing their sort of tongue in cheek, crass rock ‘n’ roll about loose women and the fast lifestyle.” They were rarely talking about it musically, and giving it the same due that they would give just about anyone else. There was a lack of taking them seriously as musicians. It was like grudgingly saying NASCAR was important, like, “Look at all these people with bad taste in the world.”
Have you always felt this way?
I was at Rolling Stone — I started in the research library. I’ve done my fair share of reading old issues, and I’d always look for the bands I liked. You’d get like, pages and pages of people taking the noodlings of Emerson, Lake and Palmer way more seriously — getting into the essence of what the universe means. Instead of talking about Angus and Malcolm, who are pretty much the most incredibly tight guitar team you have going.
What’s your take on their later albums, like ‘Black Ice’ and ‘Ballbreaker?’
I mean, I have always found a couple of songs on every single record that do it for me. You can’t expect, you know, the Rolling Stones can’t put out ‘Some Girls’ every time, and they certainly have not come close many times. But I think on every single AC/DC record, there’s always a couple of things that I think is really great. Not that the rest is filler. I like ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Train,’ I think that’s great.
What’s an AC/DC song you think is underrated?
I love ‘What’s Next to the Moon.’ I don’t know if that’s underrated, that’s just a deeper Bon Scott-era song. I like ‘It’s hard waiting around to be a millionaire’ — the lyrics on that one are so so great. And ‘Night Prowler,’ but I guess everyone knows that.
Our choice would be ‘Go Zone,’ from 1988’s ‘Blow Up Your Video’
Oh yeah, I know that one, that’s a good one — you’re right, that’s totally overlooked!
What’s your favorite AC/DC album?
Oh God, that’s hard. ‘Highway to Hell’ is a perennial, always. If I need the energy to do something, and I’m tired, that’s a go-to. I’m gonna also say ‘Powerage.’ That’s pretty crushing from start to finish.
Visit Anthony Bozza’s official website: AnthonyBozza.net
Watch AC/DC Perform ‘What’s Next to the Moon’ in 2003